Fins and Flippers, magazine from a local WWII pilot training program

On this day in 1941 — four days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii — the U.S. officially went to war with Germany and Italy. It had already declared war on Japan.

On this day in 1941, a group of pilots from the U.K. was learning to fly in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, when the news came that their American colleagues would be full partners in the war effort. Andrew J. Kinney, 1st Lieutenant of the Air Corps (R. A. F.), their commanding officer, wrote these words:

America is stirring to action. You have heard, and will continue to hear, responsible statesmen of America and Britain say that victory is inevitable. They point to our vast resources, our riches, our incomparable productive abilities. But remember that they assume that every man will do not merely his duty, but his very utmost. … Victory won’t eagerly rush up and take us by the hand. We must work and fight harder than we have ever before. Nor is tomorrow the time to fight. The time to fight is now — in your training.

This message was included in the January 1942 volume of the training company magazine Fins and Flippers. Five issues are online in Acumen: Sept., Oct., and Dec. 1941, and Jan. and Feb. 1942. They contain a mix of art, humor, poetry, personal narrative, and informative writing, and include photos of the cadets and their commanders.

Fins and Flippers Feb. 1942 cover

Today, we share some sample images from this collection. They show that these students, before and after the U.S.’s declaration of war, were still students — eager to learn and maybe just as eager to make fun of the learning process.

For more items related to World War II, go to Acumen and type this in the search bar: “world war, 1939-1945″



Hidden Gem: Pictorial History of Fort Marion

Lately, we’ve been combing through Google Analytics data for our collections, and one thing it’s done is alert us to some popular items we didn’t know about, in part because they were not in particularly well-used collections.

The Durst Family Papers is a small collection of interesting but awfully random items, including an early 18th century British legal document, a handwritten knitting pattern, and a U.S. Service Flag from WWI. There are also several items pertaining to the 19th century South, like a hand-written version of the song “Dixie,” a booklet entitled “The South Did Not Fight to Hold Slaves,” and a Confederate five dollar bill.

Something that’s both Southern and pretty random is one of our more popular items: a 1925 Pictorial History of Fort Marion, a “souvenir or St. Augustine[Florida] under three flags.”

Cover, Pictorial History of Fort Marion, 1925


The booklet, written under the direction of the local historical society, contains a written history of St. Augustine and the fort, which at various times was under Spanish, British, and American control (pages 3-5). In 1924, just before this booklet was printed, it was designated a National Monument. Later, it was transferred to the National Park Service, and it is now known by its original Spanish name, Castillo de San Marcos.

The booklet also describes the fort as it stood in 1925, including the powder magazine, the “famous secret dungeon,” something called a “hot shot oven,” and even a moat (pages 5-7, 16-18).

What’s really interesting about the booklet is a section of full-color pictures, eight pages with two images on each page, to accompany the descriptions. Here are a few examples to pique your interest — click on the thumbnail to view a larger version.

You’ll find the complete booklet in Acumen.

Goodbye, Corolla, Goodbye: 1980s-1990s

In the last of our series of posts saying farewell to the UA campus yearbook, the Corolla, we look at two books you can’t find online. (Various pages were photographed just for this post.) Both of them — and all the rest — are available in the Hoole Library reading room. Unlike most Hoole resources, they are part of the reference collection, which means they are on the shelves, ready to be used without you having to request them!

The funny thing about these two volumes is how little time I spent choosing which ones to pull. I gravitated toward volumes with covers I found interesting, and what was inside turned out to be a good indication of the decade that produced them. In many ways, any yearbook would’ve been just fine: each has pictures and articles that really speak to its time. That’s why the loss of the yearbook is such a loss for the campus.


The Corolla for this year featured an embossed image of Clark Hall on the cover:


That year, the building turned 100. But the pages of the book were definitely more 1984 than 1884. For example, the late 19th century military college wouldn’t know what to do with a girl dressed as Boy George:


There was a spread on the popular movies of the day, including the conclusion of the original Star Wars trilogy, Return of the Jedi, and the second movie of Harrison Ford’s other big trilogy, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Click on the image below to see the spread up close.


And look what was mainstream enough to make it into the pages of the yearbook:


The Football team was regrouping from the Bear Bryant era, with the short tenure of coach Ray Perkins:


Apparently, the Corolla Beauties section had morphed into Corolla Favorites. The fashion, too, had morphed…and I’m not sure if it was for the better :/




The cover of this mid-nineties volume featured fingerprint whorls, announcing the theme of the book: Identity.


Topical pieces included a look at former Vice President Dan Quayle, who received mixed reviews from students when he came to campus to speak that year:


A very different campus visitor also brought controversy, less because of anything she did than because of what the campus group that invited her didn’t do: promote the show very well.


Following National Championships in 1988 and 1991, the Tide gymnastics team was hitting their stride.


Though they didn’t win the championship in 1995, they did the next year.

While the late 20th century yearbooks covered more popular culture than ever before, they still had plenty to share about the campus greek system:


But other topics were pretty new, like those new staples of the home and office, computers:


Who knew that the Supe Store had been an Apple distributor for 20 years!

Thanks for taking this stroll down memory lane with us. For over 100 years, the Corolla has been a mainstay of the University, reflecting and at times even questioning the world of the campus and beyond. It will be sorely missed, if not by the current student body, at least by future researchers.

Goodbye, Corolla, Goodbye: 1950s-1960s

Continuing our look at Corollas of the past, these two volumes from the 1950s and 1960s are both in Acumen, and they document a rapidly changing student body and new student attitudes.


With the Space Race now underway, the 1959 yearbook editors used imagery of rockets and space to anchor their introduction to the book, as well as to adorn the cover.

1959 Corolla

1959 Corolla

But closer to home, the students were still students — and the Corolla could be a little bit bolder about covering their activities:

1959 Corolla

Lest you think UA was all about football or the Greek system, there were also a lot of artistic endeavors being pursued:

1959 Corolla

But probably the most important event of the year, even if they didn’t yet know just how important, was Bear Bryant’s first year as coach:

1959 Corolla


This volume from the late 1960s found UA in the thick of a cultural revolution, reflected in the topics discussed at the Emphasis symposium…and in the protesters outside:

1968 Corolla

Depending on when the book went into print, Martin Luther King Jr. was either a force to be reckoned with or a recent martyr. Here he is as part of a collage printed in the book:

1968 Corolla

Fields like engineering were really coming to the forefront:

1968 Corolla

Unsurprisingly, sports (and color photos!) were a major part of the book:

1968 Corolla

Our concept of beauty and fashion had changed a bit, seen here in a Corolla Beauty that the 1938 girls would’ve considered scantily clad:

1968 Corolla

Finally, the student body was also undergoing a change. While African-American students were still few and far between, even five years after the Stand in the Schoolhouse Door, they were very much present, like the young man seen here (row two), a pre-med student:

1968 Corolla

In the next post, we’ll wrap up our look at the Corolla over the years with glimpses of the 1980s and 1990s.

Goodbye, Corolla, Goodbye: 1920s-1930s

The next in our series bidding farewell to the UA yearbook, Corolla, today’s post looks at volumes from the 1920s and 1930s.

Though both of these volumes are presented in digital form here, only one of them is in the digital archive (1938). A digitized version gives you quick access to the item, but there’s a unique pleasure in turning the pages of an old book.

Thirty Corollas are in the digital archive; all of them are available in print in the Hoole Library reading room.


The cover of the 1927 book features the Tiffany stained glass window that is now in the Hoole Library lobby, visible from the outside of Mary Harmon Bryant Hall:


The window once hung in Gorgas Library, where Special Collections began its life. But the window was originally given to the University in 1925, several years before Gorgas Library was built. Apparently, that window is well-traveled!

This volume features several illustrations of events from the University’s past and campus locations, including Little Round House. It looks like it’s standing there all by itself — because it is. In 1927, Gorgas Library hadn’t been built yet.


Here’s another of illustration, this one of the burning of the campus during the Civil War.


Even when the book keeps itself firmly in the present, it’s pretty different from what we’d expect today. For example, it was perfectly normal to paraphrase a quote from Shakespeare (Henry IV Part II ) in an overview of the year in football:


The blurb ends with a phrase in Latin: “Sic honor et gloria,” or “With honor and glory”!

Near the end of the book is a parody newspaper page. It’s got some content that we might consider pretty un-PC, but it shows the sense of humor of the day. For example, the top stories compare fraternity members to mental patients:


Finally, here’s a look at the Corolla staff, which by this point was as co-ed as the University:




This year saw a new fad in graphic design, one which this volume deployed a little too much:


Throughout the book, pictures are set at an angle, sometimes in collages like the above and sometimes on otherwise normal pages, like this one for the football team:


George Denny, for whom Bryant-Denny Stadium is named, is also pictured in the volume. He and William Bankhead, an Alabamian then serving as Speaker of the U.S. House, were apparently “ardent supporters” of the Tide:


Here’s one of the many pages of student photos. Some of the men had hair as meticulously styled as the women:


This volume also featured several Corolla Beauties. Up into the 1960s, a handful of female students graced the pages of the yearbook each year. In 1938, they were chosen by a film star:


Tyrone Power was a heartthrob, a leading man that often played swashbucklers, such as the title role in The Mark of Zorro.

Here’s one of the ladies chosen as a “beauty.” Check out those eyelashes!


Next week, keep an eye out for more posts saying farewell to the Corolla, featuring volumes from the ’50s and ’60s, and ’80s, and ’90s.

Goodbye, Corolla, Goodbye: 1890s-1900s

Last week, the Crimson White broke the news to campus that a longstanding publication, the school’s yearbook, is being discontinued. The decision makes sense, financially, but with the loss of the Corolla, we will cease to have an amazing ongoing record of our campus and our world.

For the next couple of weeks, we’ll be highlighting Corollas of the past. Some of these have been digitized and are online in Acumen; others have not been digitized (just photographed informally for these posts) but can be found in the reading room at Hoole Special Collections Library.


These late 19th century yearbooks were limited in technology, from our viewpoint, but that didn’t stop the staff from sharing their sense of humor. Check out the raison d’être (reason for being) in the middle of the page:


But, apparently, this image isn’t one of those funny things:


According to our resident art major, this kind of iconography on the fraternities section page was relatively normal, as wacky as eyeballs and dragons might seem to us now.

Also normal: poetry!


Lots of sports were already a part of campus life. Football was still pretty new, and the game was apparently a different animal back then. Check out the body types of these early football players:


(For reference, they’d fit in pretty well with the stars of the most recent X-Men movie: the two Professor Xs, James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart, are 5’7″ and 5’10” respectively; Magnetos Ian McKellan and Michael Fassbender are 5’11” and 6′.)

The team average here is 5’8 1/2″ at 155 lbs. (X-Men‘s Jennifer Lawrence, who is 5’9″, is the right height but on the small side, weight-wise.) They would’ve been a little taller than the general population at the time.

The current average for an NCAA Division I player is 6’1″ at 231 lbs.

We also learn that football was an uncommon enough sport that UA had to play whatever teams were available:


Finally, even back then, advertisements were an important part of yearbook sales.



The students at the turn of the century were clearly of a different social class from modern students:


But the face of the typical UA student was changing with the recent (1897) addition of women to the campus:

Corolla1902_01 Corolla1902_04 Corolla1902_03

As the image above shows, UA was also still a military school.


But even that was changing. 1902 marked the last year UA would be considered a military institution.

Though photographs were used to depict students, perhaps they were expensive enough to reproduce that the rest of the book featured drawings, including this one, playfully illustrating the track team:


Stay tuned for upcoming posts that feature volumes from the 1920s and 1930s, from the 1950s and 1960s, and from the 1980s and 1990s. You’ll see how new printing options and changing culture shifted both the look and the purpose of the college yearbook, including the Corolla.

Fighting Yellow Jack in Cuba

Have you ever heard of yellow fever? If you haven’t, give some of the credit to Dr. William Crawford Gorgas. In the early 20th century, following up on the work of Drs. Carlos Finlay and Walter Reed and others, he employed numerous sanitation techniques to dramatically cut down on the incidence of yellow fever in first Cuba, then the Panama Canal zone.

Gorgas became especially interested in the disease, which was also known as “yellow jack,” while he was serving in the U.S. Army Medical Corps. As someone who had contracted yellow fever and survived it — enduring the fever, chills, nausea, pain, and jaundice it could bring — his natural immunity meant he was often called on to take care of yellow fever patients during later outbreaks. When the U.S. went to war with the Spanish in Cuba, yellow fever became a major concern and focus of Army medical research, which brought Gorgas front and center.

The massive W. C. Gorgas collection contains a lot of information about Gorgas’s work in the Panama Canal zone, which he’s best known for, but it also details his learning experiences in Cuba, including his interactions with Reed and Finlay. Here are some examples and highlights.

Carlos Finlay

We take for granted that many diseases are caused by bacteria and viruses — that is, germs. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this was still a new concept. How those germs were transmitted was even less understood.

In 1881, Carlos Finlay, a Cuban doctor, began arguing that yellow fever was transmitted by mosquitoes.

yellow fever report by Gorgas

It wasn’t easy believing this hypothesis, even for medical professionals. In a 1902 report to the Philadelphia Medical Journal, Gorgas details various experiments made in Cuba that helped prove the hypothesis true, as well as his evolving attitudes based in part on observations of his own medical practice.

Finlay’s mosquito hypothesis had first come to the attention of the U.S. government at the outset of the Spanish-American War (1898), when thousands of U.S. troops would be traveling to Cuba.

yellow fever report by Finlay, 1898

You can read Gorgas’s letters and diary entries from that year here.

Gorgas worked with Finlay in Cuba from 1898 to 1902. After he moved on, he kept well abreast of Finlay’s continued work there, as evidenced in a letter of May 11, 1906. An excerpt:

We plume ourselves upon the way in which our people [the U.S. Army] handled yellow fever in New Orleans last year, and it was very creditably done, but in Havana you limited the disease to much narrower lines and confined it to a much smaller population without any assistance from cold weather or frosts. But what I think is the greatest feather in the cap of the Cuban Sanitary Department is the practical extinction of malarial fever in Havana.

At the time he wrote that letter, Gorgas was already at the Panama Canal site, where both yellow fever and malaria (also transmitted by mosquitoes) had once run rampant. The toll taken by those diseases were part of why the French had had to abandon the project. Gorgas’s work, based in part on Finlay’s hypothesis, brought about a reduction in yellow fever and malaria deaths in Panama, which allowed the canal to finally be completed in 1914.

For more correspondence between Finlay and Gorgas, follow this link.

Walter Reed

Dr. Walter Reed has been sent to Cuba in 1898 to investigate the typhoid fever epidemic among servicemen during the Spanish-American war, but he soon took up the equally distressing problem of yellow fever. At first, they thought the disease was transmitted in much the same way typhoid was, through water contaminated by insects.

Combating yellow fever wasn’t a straightforward thing, even after doctors and scientists concluded that it was transmitted by mosquitoes directly. Many experiments were undertaken in Cuba, including some brave but (to modern sensibilities) ethically questionable trials on human subjects.

In a letter to Reed in late summer 1901, written when Gorgas was in Havana, he talks about such an experiment. Mosquitoes were allowed to bite an infected man, then those mosquitoes bit seven healthy people. Of the six who came down with yellow fever, half died. Gorgas found the lack of progress frustrating and the loss of life hard to accept:

I am very much disappointed. I had hoped, that through the mosquito, we had a means of giving mild cases which would protect; but these cases show that the severest form of yellow fever can be transmitted by one or two mosquito bites.

I suppose I ought to be thankful for the immense good that the discovery so far has done, and for the great success that our work, this year, has had; but the death of these patients just now, makes all success taste of gall and wormwood, and casts a gloom over the Sanitary Department.

You can read Reed’s reply in Acumen.

Reed and Gorgas spent a lot of time discussing how to rid Cuba of the mosquito menace. In April 1901, Gorgas describes his methods for getting rid of the insects — by draining away the standing water they liked to breed in. In June 1901, Reed urges him not to depend solely on killing mosquitoes but also to work on protecting people from being bitten.

In May 1901, Reed writes to Gorgas to argue that a single bite could give someone yellow fever; it did not take multiple bites, as Finlay and others argued. It wasn’t the only time Reed disagreed with Finlay’s ideas or his seemingly more primitive methods, and in fact there is still some amount of controversy today about where the credit lies for solving the yellow fever problem. However, it is clear that both Gorgas and Reed owed much to Finlay’s early findings and continued work as a sanitary officer.

Reed, despite his forceful personality, seems to have had a good sense of humor, and to have developed professional respect and genuine affection for both Gorgas and Finlay. Right up until his death in November 1902, Reed continued to correspond with Gorgas, inquiring about the state of yellow fever in Havana and working out new and better ways to tackle the epidemic.

For more correspondence between Reed and Gorgas, follow this link.

Great Spirits, Restless Souls

In September 1915, a couple of weeks after Finlay’s passing, Gorgas gave a eulogy for him at a meeting of the American Public Health Association. In summing up his character, Gorgas said:

He was a most genial, kindly, modest man, but strong and determined when he thought any matter of principle was involved.

Gorgas imagines Finlay and Reed, two “great spirits,” meeting in the afterlife, but he says he will not tell them to rest in peace:

I know such souls do not desire to rest in peace but are continuing development along the altruistic lines which they so preeminently adorned in this life.

In 1914, Gorgas was appointed Surgeon General of the U.S. Army. Before he died in 1920, he was even given an honorary knighthood by King George V of the United Kingdom. His methods didn’t just improve the Panama Canal zone; they were a model used by other healthcare workers all over the world. His personal and professional relationships with Carlos Finlay and Walter Reed and their experiences fighting yellow jack in Cuba were instrumental in making these methods a reality.

Interested in more about Gorgas’s connection to the Panama Canal?

  • If you’re searching online, you can find more letters and reports in Acumen.
  • If you’re here on campus, why not visit the Gorgas House Museum, where there is now an exhibit on his time in the Panama Canal zone. Admission is free for students, faculty, and staff, and just $2 for visitors.

Everyday mysteries of the archives

Part of the fun of looking through archival material is solving mysteries. When we don’t know much about the provenance of the collection –when there’s only the material itself to go on –that mystery is even more challenging, but potentially more fun.

What we know about Archibald McLauchlin: he was from North Carolina, he settled in Wilcox County, Alabama, and he wrote at least two diaries. One ran January 1854 to March 1856; the other picks up where the previous left off, continues through the middle of 1857, and then makes a leap to January 1870.


Based on the entries themselves, we learn that McLauchlin was educated at a university, had in fact been in school a couple of semesters already when he began writing. From that first diary, we get sense of what day-to-day life was like at an American university in the middle of the 19th century.

Feb. 10, 1854 – Calculus and Demonsthenes


Feb. 26, 1854 – A sermon at chapel (on Ephesians 5:14)


March 22, 1855 – History, Rhetoric, French…and snow!


Feb. 2, 1856 – Studies interrupted by friends on a slushy day


March 6, 1856 – Recovering from an illness (begun Feb. 27)



We also know that in 1870, he started recording his first six months as a full-time farmer. The second diary gives us a glimpse of the life of a planter in post-Civil War Alabama.

Jan. 1, 1870 – “First efforts at farming for a living”


April 12, 1870 – Planting corn and cotton



But what did he do in the dozen or so years in between?

Luckily for us history detectives, the collection also contains several letters to and from friends and family, some of them written by Archie himself. This letter to his sister in 1861 provides some clues. From page one:

I am now at home, have been here nearly two weeks, our Regt was disbanded owing to the thinning of our ranks by the conscript. I did not stay quite a month. Spent about twenty dollars got no joy, and don’t know whether I will or not. When I came home it was time my crop had been worked over, but it was not, the man that I expected to work it the first time was about to get our of it by saying, he could not, do it for he was not done planting himself. The war is making people very selfish here, every one is looking after their own interest…

Of course, this letter muddies the waters as much as it clears things up. Why was his regiment disbanded? What was he doing during the war if not fighting?

Check out the rest of the collection to do some further sleuthing. Maybe you can find out he thought about transitioning from university life, with its Greek orators and calculus, to life as a cotton farmer.

A Day in the Life: August 25

Archives give us a chance to look at the world in a lot of different ways, through lenses big and small. Today, we take a cross section of life on this date, August 25, across the decades. From 1840 to 1945, people were still people, and not that different from you and I, whether dealing with everyday concerns or faced with especially trying times.

Their punctuation and spelling could be just as atrocious as ours, and their typing could definitely have used the autocorrect technology we rely on. Their handwriting, however, can be pretty different from ours. That’s reason enough to take a peek at the excerpts below. Are you from a generation that can still read cursive? (I am.) Some of these were a real challenge…


Peter Hamilton in Mobile, Ala., to Anna Beers in Pleasant Hill, Ala.:


Your last letter concluded with “many wishes for my continued health and happiness” — now I will tell you how these wishes may be fully gratified — only continue to write such letters and frequently & I think I can answer pretty confidently both for my health and happiness.


General H. D. Clayton near Chattanooga, Tenn., probably with Braxton Bragg’s forces, to his wife:


The condition of the Reg is improving daily – the sick are [returning?]. We already have the largest Regiment in the Brigade. Much anxiety is being felt as to our future movement not only in the [country/county?] but here in the army also. We expect a big fight before going a great distance from here.


Charles Manly in Greenville, N.C., to his parents (letter with a copy of the war poem “Not Doubtful of Your Fatherland,” by William Gilmore Simms):


I am now pretty certain t[hat] Charleston will fall. People[?] it in earnest – & where I will go to is hard to say – mighty little now here.


Augusta Evans Wilson in Birmingham, Ala., to Rachel Heustis, about her “hay-fever” and subsequent “grassphobia”:

…my suffering in New York


was caused entirely by a visit to the “Metropolitan Museum of Art” in Central Park, where the lawn grass had been mown the day previous, and raked into small piles. Whiles I should enjoy being with you, and would doubtless find the Hotel much cooler than the city, I dread a renewal of my great suffering…


W. D. Campbell in Geneva, Ala., to Judge H. D. Clayton:


I was a candidate in the late Election for the office of Sheriff and was beaten by Sectional Strife the small majority of 72 votes in the county — the Elect has failed to make bond in the time prescribed by law and the office is declassed vacant to the appointing power – and I was the next fastest in the Election and urged by my friends to make application for the appointment I respectfully ask your Honor to recomend me to the appointing power.


Hannah Irwin in Wheeling, W. Va., to Joe Woodward:


Jen B. and I expect to leave for the World’s Fair the first week in September, and from there I expect to go to West [Plaines] to see Bird.


A. H. Woodward in Alabama to his mother:



Hannah Irwin in Beverly, Ohio, to Mattie in Beaumaris, Ontario, Canada:


Alfred has been here twice – he leaves next week – I do wish he could be induced to do something besides smoking and reading fiction. He tried to enter Princeton again but owing to his record there – being conditioned in three studies he could not be admitted unless he worked [them?] off. He ought to be employed.


Andrew Dawson in England, with the American Expeditionary Forces, to his mother in Tuscaloosa, Ala.:


There is certainly something wrong. But we do not have anything more to eat for a week. Why? Because we had some “sho nuff” steak for dinner in addition to the blackberry cobler. Now that is too much for one day. Goodness alive, you should see how we did clean up with that dinner.


Aunt Delle Metcalf to Rick in Wheeling, W. Va.:


I presume you will think I had forgotten all about the coat I wrote you about to tell the truth it has been so beastly hot and our attic like a fiery Furnace for several weeks I simply could not go up to get it out of the Trunk but a change in the atmosphere a few days ago made it bearable up there so I fished it out aired it a day in the hot sun and today I have done it up ready to take to Post Office to be mailed to you.


William Williams at Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute to A. H. Woodward, asking advice about continuing in school:


I have plenty courage and faith. For the seven years I have been here I have put all I have into my work. It is not any work I have done that I am ashame of. I can lay brick, plaster, upholster furniture, top cars, landscape grow flowers and play music, and I am second year college. I believe I can make it up if I wont be able to get any more. I feel that I can hold any job I be skillful. I hope you will give me some advice as to what to do.


Lou Peterson to Dick Young:


I hardly know what to say or how to start to thank you for your thoughtfulness and kindness during my illness. Well here goes: your letter arrived first and believe me Dick it was good, and really I had to smile, even though I was in pain. I’m glad you tore up that morbid one I much prefer the humorous one because I also was [morbid?]. Then the beautiful care from you, have me a good feeling too. The verse was well. But when those beautiful flowers arrive in the afternoon, I was spell bound and such a gorgeous bouquet Dick.


Bill Berman serving at Fort Riley, Kan., to “folks” in St. Louis, Mo.:



J. C. Faulkner serving in San Francisco, Cal., to his wife Bonnie in Tuscaloosa, Ala., a few days after VJ (Victory over Japan) Day:


The water still wasn’t on when we come in so we took a B. B. (Bucket Bath). There was a leak in one of the big tanks and was possible to catch water in a bucket by holding your hands against the tank so that the water would fall into the bucket. Cain and I took turns, he carried the water for me while I bathed and then I carried water for him. you know the fellows didn’t grip and beef as usual. about all they said was, “Well we won’t have to do this much longer.” It is going to be wonderful to get back the things that we once thought were the necessitys of life.

For more items from this date, type this into the Acumen search bar: title:(august AND 25). You can also substitute any month and day, or include a year.


“The Memorable Stone-Wall”: A local dispatch about the Battle of Cedar Mountain

In August of 1862, Confederate General Robert E. Lee led a campaign against Major General John Pope and the Army of Virginia. We know it now as the Northern Virginia Campaign.

A letter in our archive discusses the aftermath of the earliest engagement of the campaign, the Battle of Cedar Mountain.

Picture of Cedar Mountain, looking south from the approximate southwestern corner of The Wheatfield, by Matt Stewart, taken October 16, 2005

Picture of Cedar Mountain, looking south from the approximate southwestern corner of The Wheatfield, by Matt Stewart, taken October 16, 2005

The battle pitted Union General Nathaniel P. Banks against Confederate General Thomas J. Jackson, better known as “Stonewall.”

On August 13, Judith, writing from the small community of Louisa (between Charlottesville and Fredericksburg), tells Donnie Perkins about the impact of the recent battles on the local community.

We’ll share some excerpts here. You can read the letter in its entirety in Acumen.

Judith begins with an explanation of why she hasn’t answered a letter from late July.


I make no excuse for not having written before, for you can well immagine the reason when you consider the bustle and excitement we have been in for some time back, and now, while I am writing I am annoyed by the continual passing of army-wagons and soldiers.

The “memorable Stone-wall” had crossed the Rapidan River on “last friday,” August 8, for an attack starting the next day, with “canonading which at times was so severe as to jar the earth round us.” She seemed to think he had something like 60,000 men under him; in reality, that’s more than the entire force under Lee during the campaign.

However, Jackson did command the entire left wing of Lee’s forces. The “continual passing of army-wagons and soldiers” as she’s writing the letter might be the fallback of those troops to Gordonsville, just 10 miles NNE of Louisa.

As for the recent battle, according to Judith,


We have heard no particulars from the fight but we drove the enemy back with very little loss on our side. We took a good many prisoners among them 3 Gen’ls and some 60 or
80 commissioned officers. Billie was in the fight but came out safe though his regement the 13th Va was very badly cut up having many wounded but none killed.

She goes on to describe some local losses in that battle as well as an earlier “Richmond battle,” probably during the Seven Days Battles.


A Widow Lady living near us had 2 sons killed and a third one wounded in 3 places. She also lost one at the battle of Fort [Donelson], he was wounded and taken from the field but not returned to fight again when he rec’d a mortal wound.

She stops at this point to talk about the sacrifices that have been made to the cause — “They were very brave, but dear Donnie, the bravery of our friends is very little comfort to us, when they are cold in death.”


Oh! you can little immagine the horrors of war ’til you see, and hear the groan, of the wounded and see the distress of the bereaved friends, and even that is nothing to be comparred to the shocking sight of the battlefield. Oh! when will this unholy war end? Perhaps when all of our friends are killed. Then what will “Liberty” be to us.

She has harsh things to say about the rhetoric of sacrifice: “All this sounds very pretty, but if they could see their friends come home with their feet blistered from marching…and see them fall on the floor in utter exhaustion…I think they would lose their patriotism.”

Next, she theorizes about what’s to come in the war: “I am anxious to know what move the dear old Stone-wall will take next. His men seem to think that he is going to make a grand move into Maryland which, I hope may prove true.” Of Jackson, she reports,


His men love him dearly and would go through fire and flame[?] at his bidding. His forces were surrounded at one time up in the mountain, but his men remarked that old Jack had brought them there and that he would bring them out and so he did by marching them single file across the mountain with a yankee army within a half mile of him on each side. No doubt they thought they had him safe enough but he was too keen for them.

The previously mentioned Billie was with that force. She shares that Billie picked up some “yankee trophies,” including the very paper she’s writing on!

Judith talks about more deaths, including the son of a cousin, also in the Richmond engagement. Sharing more details from Billie, she writes,


They had to march to the fields through briers, over ditches and quagmires and were almost broken down when they wint into the fight and [?] had had scaresly any thing to eat for several days. Billie told me that one of the men that marched by him got into a quagmire and he had
to help him out. The poor fellow came home sick after the battle and soon died.

In news closer to home again, she shares that “the yankees have been very near us several times,” including while they were on their way to a supply depot in the vicinity. Her letter wraps up with some personal news about a sick family member, but the fighting is never far from her thoughts.


I have just heard that Jackson is to be reinforced by 4000 so we may expect a big battle soon.

That reinforcement would have been the right wing, under Longstreet, coming to aid Jackson’s left. Two days later, Robert E. Lee would meet them in Gordonsville to take command of the whole Army of Northern Virginia.

Two weeks later, Jackson had already destroyed the Union supply depot at Manassas Junction and was engaged in the Second Battle of Bull Run (also called Second Manassas), a major Confederate victory. By early September, though, the Army of Northern Virginia had moved on to Maryland, to the bloody Battle of Antietam (Battle of Sharpsburg), which, though inconclusive, helped turn the tide of the war back to the Union.